New York state senators threatened an investigation Wednesday into allegations that Yeshiva University misrepresented itself to receive $230 million in state funding, according to a letter sent to the Jewish school.
Yeshiva is currently embroiled in a lawsuit regarding the school’s refusal to officially recognize the YU Pride Alliance, an LGBTQ student club, on campus due to its religious convictions. Democratic state Sens. Brad Hoylman, Liz Krueger and Toby Ann Stavisky accused Yeshiva Wednesday of misrepresenting itself as an “independent, coeducational, nonsectarian” institution in 2009 and 2011 to receive $230 million in public funding via the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) despite the university arguing that it is a “religious” organization in its lawsuit with YU Pride Alliance.
The letter explained that DASNY had issued bonds to the university in 2009 and 2011 to pay for renovations of the buildings and grounds, but the senators noted that to receive those bonds YU agreed to certain stipulations for the use of the funding. Those stipulations required the university to use the DASNY funding for secular purposes only, but the senators alleged that YU failed to abide by this requirement. (RELATED: New York Appeals Court Rules Yeshiva University Must Recognize LGBTQ Student Group)
“The University agrees that … the Project or any portion thereof shall not be used for sectarian religious instruction or as a place of religious worship or in connection with any part of a program of a school or department of divinity for any religious denomination; provided, however, that the foregoing restriction shall not prohibit the free exercise of any religion,” the letter read.
The letter further demanded that Yeshiva provide a “full and complete accounting” of its use of DASNY funding within 30 days. All three senators also called for the university to change its “anti-LGBTQ policies.”
“We will not abide the use of state funds to support discriminatory behavior that excludes LGBTQ students from their right to an equal education,” the senators wrote. “We urge Yeshiva University to immediately reverse course and cease its anti-LGBT policies.”
Hanan Eisenman, a Yeshiva University spokesperson, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the Supreme Court had upheld the right for universities to provide a “world-class academic and professional education” in the context of a “religious education.”
“In the last five years, including this past summer in Carson v. Makin, the Supreme Court has three times ruled that the government may not restrict funding to religious schools because of their free exercise,” Eisenman stated. “Yeshiva will continue to defend its right to religious liberty while ensuring the right of its students to be treated by the state on equal footing with students at every other university.”
The senators claimed that the lawsuit between Yeshiva and the YU Pride Alliance raised questions as to how the university could receive public funding for only non-religious entities while engaged in a lawsuit in which the university argued it was primarily a religious and educational institution.
Eisenman resoundingly denied this accusation, calling it “false and offensive.”
“Our students, including our LGBTQ students, come to Yeshiva because of our commitment to Torah values,” Eisenman pointed out. “In keeping with our commitment to our students, YU last year announced the framework for the Kol Yisrael Areivim club for our undergraduate students who identify as LGBTQ and are striving to live authentic Torah lives.”
Yeshiva, Hoylman, Krueger and Stavisky did not respond to DCNF’s request for comment.
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